Rank #1: isolatedmix 91 - RichEars & Leandro Fresco - Dream Collar
It’s been ten episodes since our regular Balearic-sunset-conjurer RichEars graced the isolatedmix series (isolatedmix 81) but a whole five-years since Leandro Fresco stepped up with his second mix (with isolatedmix 47).
RichEars is a welcome regular at this time of year (we always get an itch for some Balearic vibes around this time). Whilst Leandro has been busy curating his own weekly series of gems on Frisky Radio, spending each week digging around some of the finest ambient music.
The two are therefore a natural pair to lay down a 2-hour journey and come together as one from across the globe for isolatedmix 91. With Leandro following the lead of RichEars’ first hour, the two flow through classic artists and many memorable moments, creating a timeless mix that’s fitting for watching the world go by, or an extended chill session. RichEars, in his own style, sets the tone, keeping things eclectic and lively, moving between well-known artists such as Global Communication, HIA and Vangelis, amongst quirkier samples and soundtracks, Then Leandro continues down the rabbit-hole, taking a slightly more modern approach, with a heavily German and Kompakt-related textured twist, including Bochum Welt, Michael Mayer, Closer Musik and Arovane.
Hour 1 (RichEars)
01. William Orbit - The Mighty Limpopo
02. Disastrato - Give Up
03. Global Communication - 14:31 (Reload Remix)
04. Cult Of Youth - Gymnoso
05. Calm - Light Years
06. The Higher Intelligence Agency - Speedlearn (The Irresistible Force rmx)
07. A Guy Called Gerald - Emotions Electric
08. The Superfools - Little_Fluffy_Clouds_Scavenger_Mix
09. Vangelis - Blush Response (UNKLE Sounds Edit)
10. Chicane - Low Sun
11. Leggo Beast - The New Deal
12. Harrison & Daicz - Una Luz Tan Brillante 2
13. The Orb - Montagne d'Or (Der gute Berg)
14. Penguin Cafe Orchestra - The Sound Of Someone You Love Who's Going Away
And It Doesn't Matter
15. David Sylvian - Words With The Shaman
Hour 2 (Leandro Fresco)
16. Bochum Welt - Laurel Canyon
17. Negativland - Michael Jackson
18. Melorman - Wait
19. The Orb - Back Side Of The Moon
20. Michael Mayer - Baumhaus
21. Leandro Fresco - Verano Sin Fin
22. Gas - Rausch 1
23. Dirk Leyers - Daydreamer
24. Yui Onodera - Cromo 2
25. Gustavo Lamas - Mañana
26. Thore Pfeiffer - Tarragon
27. Leandro Fresco & Rafael Anton Irisarri - Un Horizonte En Llamas
28. Closer Musik - 1,2,3 No Gravity (Dettinger Mix)
29. Arovane - Seaside
30. HTDC - The Sky Is Black
Jul 21 2019
Rank #2: isolatedmix 92 - Midori Hirano
Born in Kyoto, Japan and now residing in Berlin, Midori Hirano’s discography has spanned a wide spectrum of experimental electronic music. From her 2016 album on the esteemed Sonic Pieces, to her latest praised work on Australian label Daisart and her beautiful extended piece for the Longform Editions series, Midori’s work is often recognizable when in play due to her manipulation of the piano.
A talented player from a young age, Midori’s work revolves around these classical elements, often told through soft pieces, with added electronic processing and field recordings. The result draws you in through attachment, as differentiating layers and effects change productions from a simple modern classical score, to an engaging experimental piece. Think Steve Reich, or other minimalist innovators, and you’ll enjoy Midori’s experimentations.Minor Planet by midori hiranoMirrors in Mirrors by Midori HiranoImprovisation for Piano in Summer 2018 by Midori Hirano
For any electronica fans, take Midori’s work as MimiCof however, and these minimalist productions take on new rhythmic layers, often finding themselves in an even more electronic guise, sitting alongside the finest moments of labels like City Centre Offices and Morr Music, the melodies of a Lusine and the classical manipulation and experimentation of a Ryuichi Sakamoto. A high bar by all accounts, but evident in the pieces captured below, where the extremes of this sound have seen Midori’s most energetic piece to date, Moon Synch, expand with rich experimentations originating from the Buchla synthesizer.re:construction by MimiCofMoon Synch by MimiCof
Not only is Midori pushing the boundaries of electronic music as her own name and as MimiCof, Midori has recently signed with Erased Tapes Music, and has contributed remixes for the likes of Sonae, Kid 606 and Liars. And of course, the talent doesn’t stop there - Midori has also helped provide some photography for Christian Kleine’s ASIP release, taking pictures of her newly adopted home in Berlin.
But, back to what you’re here for, the music, and here’s what Midori had to say about her isolatedmix which combines the art evident across both her monikers with recent experimental pioneers that stay true to her sound:
“This mix consists of recent favourite tracks of mine including two of my own songs. A few tracks have voices or field recordings which I often like to use also for my music, as I often want to have a kind of feeling of watching films every time I make a mix. It puts me into a place isolated from a world while I’m listening to it for myself” - MH
01. Tujiko Noriko - Ride
02. Senking - Ep 4
03. Félicia Atkinson - Valis
04. alva noto + ryuichi sakamoto with ensemble modern - Broken Line
05. MimiCof - Opal
06. Eli Keszler - The Immense Endless Belt Of Faces
07. Caterina Barbieri - Fantas
08. Driftmachine - Shift II
09. Ornate Coldtrain - Powerful Myth
10. Uguisubari - Nanzen-Ji
11. Mark Pritchard - The Blinds Cage (feat. Beans)
12. Amnesia Scanner & Bill Kouligas - II
13. Midori Hirano - Haiyuki
14. Jim O’Rourke - And a 1, 2, 3, 4
15. Yair Elazar Glotman & Mats Erlandsson - Format And Formalize Desire
16. Robert Lippok - Samtal
Sep 10 2019
Rank #3: Portals: The Newer Age
You thought you knew New Age until you knew a Newer Age.
It’s evidently hard to qualify New Age Music. A search online brings up some recent journalism obsessing over its hip resurgence but it’s rare to find anything other than some top records and rough history. As with all Portal’s features, I try to find a slightly new angle.
Depending on whether you’re speaking to someone who likes New Age or not, will normally get you very different answers on what it is. Ambient musicians normally hate to be coined as New Age (just ask Eno or Budd), Record shops will often categorize New Age alongside ambient (some may have their own ’Shadowfax'-heavy section) and at the very least you’ll find them all in the bargain bins (other than Portland stores it seems - a revered genre going by my last visit).
I sold and stocked ASIP catalog in a shop once (not to be named) on the basis the guy who owned it thought they were all New Age. He even went on to tell prospective customers it was New Age. I couldn’t really argue with him to say why it was or was not, or that it was ambient, or similar, because in his head it all lived under the same umbrella.
Fact Mag captured this conundrum earlier this year;-
"New age music remains misunderstood because new age isn’t a style or a sound but a sensibility; an exceptionally soupy, psychedelic one, at that. Contemporary listeners tend to conflate new age with ambient but their overlap is inconsistent: though much new age music exudes ambient qualities, the reverse is less often the case. In fact, over the years many prominent artists of the movement have rejected association with new age and its trappings, as it’s widely considered to be the domain of quacks and charlatans.” - Britt Brown / Fact Mag.
What I ended up within this Portals feature, is an interpretation of New Age as told through some recent releases, which might not be placed in the New Age bucket when on their own, alongside more immediate/classic-sounding New Age elements.
I am not a big New Age fan if I reflect on records previously identified under the genre, but I asked myself what would happen if I took the stereotypical elements of this style (hopeful, optimistic, uplifting music, religious connotations, enlightenment, spoken word, early synthesizers, the sound of the sea, forest etc etc) and applied it to music I listen to often today?
I gave myself the challenge and followed the flow of the mix not knowing where it would end up. As a genre, New Age seems loose and subjective, but as a theme that traces back to the origins of the name, I think the mix holds-up through the many styles and characteristics that are included across the ~90 mins. Perhaps proving (to me and my own silly challenge at least) that New Age isn’t always a style or genre that can be described or pinned down to a type of music, but more a feeling that’s still evident in music today.
"The phrase itself, of course, is old, invoked over centuries by various mystics and spiritual leaders to refer to an impending, ill-defined future era of enlightenment as a means of instilling hope in their congregation” - Britt Brown / Fact Mag.
Who am I to tell the owner of the record shop that ASIP releases aren’t New Age if he sees hope and new worlds in them…?! I’ll settle for that.
With this approach of not confining New Age to specific tracks, I’m holding off on the track list for now, until some time has passed for you to dive in and take it as a whole. I’ll add the full track list here soon.
Until then, see you in the next life.
Nozomu Matsumoto - Climatotherapy (The Death of Rave)
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - I Am A Thought (Western Vinyl)
Khotin - Dwellberry (Ghostly International)
Imaginary Softwoods - Albion (Field Records)
Akis - New Age Uprising (Part I) (Into The Light)
Martin Glass - Floating To Work (Kit Records)
Ex-Terrestrial - Dreams of Jupiter (1080p)
Graintable - Amarps (Ransom Note)
Varg - Archive 1 “Spit Sugar Free Red Bull Into My Mouth” (Posh Isolation)
Suzanne Ciani - Quadrophonic Part 1 (Atmospheric)
Felicia Atkinson - Vermillions (Shelter Press)
Heavenly Music Corporation - Reentry (Astral Industries)
Eternell - Dancing With Wind (Eternell)
Martin Glass - Welcome to the Four Seasons (Kit Records)
Wanderwelle - Her Name Is Vairumati (Silent Season)
Mark Peters - Twenty Bridges (Andi Otto Remix) (Sonic Cathedral)
Seahawks - Emergence (Cascine)
Dagerlöff - From The Womb To The Tomb (Tigersushi)
Ana Caprix - Terminal (Self Released)
CFCF - Closed Space (Single edit) (BGM Solutions)
DJ Healer - Protectionspell (All Possible Worlds)
Datasette - 65536 KiloEnyas (Self Released)
Jesse Somfay - Levamentum [Aqua Regia] (Tipping Hand)
Parks - Forest (Self Released)
Procedamus In Pace (Paschale Mysterium)
Kettel & Secede - Admittance (Sending Orbs)
Tongues Of Light - Awakening Side (Pre-Cert Home Entertainment)
Sep 05 2019
Rank #4: ASIP - Reflection on 2019
We’ve given a recap of our label releases this year and now it’s time to reflect on some of the music I’ve enjoyed listening to in 2019.
“What an amazing year for music”. I feel like I could say that every year, but really, every year has great music if you dig deep enough. But this year especially, music seems to have taken on a new lease of life and ramped up a notch in terms of output and velocity - in my world at least. If I had to guess as to why, it might be because Bandcamp is becoming more and more ubiquitous for independent artists and subsequently a daily visit for listeners like me. This ubiquity has meant a) more people getting their music out into the world, b) easier ways for people like me (who want to) to support the music we enjoy and c) new labels capitalizing on a distribution process that until a few years ago, was very hard to stand up.
2019 even played host to the mighty Radiohead embracing the Bandcamp platform with ~18,000 (last time I counted before it was removed) purchasers of their unreleased OK Computer Outtakes album at a minimum of ~$23-a-pop. That’s a crazy sum for purchased music. There’s also Buy Music Club, launched by Avalon Emerson, which (technically launched at the end of 2018 but was fully embraced this year) seems to have been used by many notable DJs using it to link to music played in their sets (you can find this Reflection on 2019 mix in a list below). And lastly, Bandcamp themselves, through their Bandcamp Daily platform, have done an almighty job of stepping up their editorial game spotlighting music on the platform through a constant stream of style/genre specific breakdowns. The clichéd music industry in-depth ‘album review’ seems to have been flipped to keep up with this increased output too, turning into an equivalent wade through micro-genres, bringing people a choice of obscure styled albums in the same vein. It’s hard to find the extended narratives on one album nowadays it seems… All this to say that it’s encouraging to see a model that goes some way to working for independent artists, labels and listeners, getting more out into the world.
Now, to wade through some (some) of it.
As with all of my ‘Reflection’ year-end mixes, I start with a long list of albums I have enjoyed over the year. Often hundreds. Through the process of putting a mix together that flows well, the songs are whittled down and selected from each album. This means many of my favorite tracks are often omitted in the process (even favorite tracks from a favorite album). But as I say every year, this isn’t a definitive ‘best-of’ list, but an organic selection of some of my favorite music from the year in a listenable format - it’s the most enjoyable way for me to boil down music I’ve loved from the year using these self-imposed restrictions. Use the mix to jump off and explore more from each artist and album.
This year’s mix ended up being primarily ambient, but with an unexpected ending. The last few yearly Reflection mixes have tended to switch-up gears throughout the mix and cover some of my other musical loves like; electronica, IDM, techno etc. But this time around, I found myself with a (roughly) two-hour ambient-leaning mix before I even came up for air. I debated stopping there (and have provided an MP3 version below to download just the ambient portion should you prefer your music more horizontal), but the full mix went on…
The initial two-hour ambient chapter of the mix is followed by a series of tracks that you could say are a nod to the early years of rave and the chill-out rooms; an alternative ‘retro-feeling suite’. This 90’s sound seems to have made a big impact on 2019 across many genres, from rave-inspired breaks in House and Techno, to Jungle and Balearic back in the game- the 90’s sound seems to be having its moment (or does it every year?!). I wanted to capture a snapshot of it here as I noticed a trend in what I was listening to. On hindsight, the mix ended up like a backwards 90’s album format - with ambient at the front instead of the usual album-ender.
Titled, ‘The Jilted Suite’, this ending chapter is a small dive into some of the non-ambient music I’ve enjoyed this year and is titled so in honor of ‘The Narcotic Suite’ from The Prodigy’s album (RIP Keith Flint - 2019).
So as a final warning, if you’re drifting off at that two-hour mark to the lulls and swells, you have been warned, things switch up after that.
I would normally do a quick written run-down of the music featured at this point, but I feel like I’ve done enough talking already to give an additional 37 track commentary.
All of these albums have been purchased (where possible) through Bandcamp also viewable via my Bandcamp collection page, and I’ve compiled them all into a Buy Music Club list here. Label names below hyperlink to each Bandcamp release (again, where possible - I think all but one release does). Please support and buy this music!
Thanks for listening and for a great year.
01. Hollie Kenniff - Home Will Follow [n5MD]
02. r beny - Echoes Verse [Dauw]
03. Nils Frahm - Talisman [Erased Tapes]
04. Malibu - One Life [Uno NYC]
05. 36 & Black Swan - Part 2 [Past Inside The Present]
06. Ohio - Rows, Barns, Fields [12K]
07. ASC - Echo Location [Silent Season]
08. Celer - Rains Lit By Neon [Self] READ
09. nthng - Shine [Transatlantic Records]
10. Olan Mill - Metatrons Cube [Dronarivm]
11. Caught In The Wake Forever - NV Drowning [Archives]
12. Simone Giudice - Momento [Delirio]
13. Nathaniel Young - May I Speak Candidly [Mysteries of The Deep]
14. Caterina Barbieri - Fantas [Editions Mego]
15. Violeta Vicci - Violet Light [Painted World] READ
16. Susumu Yokota - Ama and the Mountain [Lo Recordings]
17. Jogging House - Traverse [Dauw]
18. Dots - Tonic Edge [Astral Industries]
19. Coppice Halifax - Slow Earth Ritual [Milieu Music]
20. Sound Awakener - Ammil [Facture]
21. Hotel Neon - Sunfire [Archives]
22. Rafael Anton Irisarri - Decay Waves [Room 40]
23. Hammock - Adnasjur [Facture]
24. Arovane & Mike Lazarev - Us, Inside [Eilean]
25. 扎克 - 000820001 [Past Inside The Present]
26. Bersarin Quartett - Siehst du das auch [Denovali]
[27 - Ambient mix version only]. Aardvarck - U Are, Not What U Think [Crowd]
The Jilted Suite
27. Desolate - Ode To Sines [Fauxpas]
28. RX-101 - Rendezvous Beacon [Suction Records]
29. Priori - 6thematic [NAFF]
30. Phillipe Cam - Manga [Traum Schallplatten]
31. Perishing Thirst - OK - [NAFF]
32. Boreal Massif - Low Forties [Pessimist Productions]
33. Homemade Weapons - Svalsat (Donato Dozzy Remix) [Samurai]
34. ASC - Nimbus [Auxiliary]
35. Nathan Micay - LeafCutAngelicDepths [Lucky Me]
36. CFCF - Closed Space (Single Edit) [BGM Solutions]
37. Coil - Alternative Theme From Gay Man’s Guide To Safer Sex [Mental Groove]
Dec 11 2019
Rank #5: Portals: The KLF's Chill Out (A New Dimension)
First off, I’ve never had so much fun compiling a mix. Limitations really do help focus. But as soon as I had the idea and began strategizing how to go about it, I didn’t realize what I was getting into. I ended up in Psychedelic Rock Youtube rabbit holes, reading forums from the 1990’s that no longer worked in a browser; downloading .txt files from KLF obsessives; listening to the album on repeat, again and again. It was brilliant. And I urge anyone to do the same to truly understand a piece of music and go deep on something you enjoy. This album is the Holy Grail for many of us, and is without a doubt in my top 10 of all time. It’s at least one of my most played albums due to its inclusion as a regular bedtime routine (despite my wife asking why she can hear sheep noises and then continuing to freak out).
To reinterpret The KLF’s Chill Out, might be similar to many peoples polarizing opinions on remixes. Most of the time (and I often agree), it shouldn’t even be messed with. But, what’s interesting with Chill Out, is that it’s as much a DJ mix as it is piece of music. The line between producer and DJ is blurred. Apart from a couple of (soon to then be) popular KLF tunes in the latter half of the album, the majority of the recording is improvised sessions pulled together and re-recorded live, alongside a wealth of samples ranging from Elvis Presley, 808 State, Fleetwood Mac, trains, chanting and radio announcements. On hindsight after digging into this further than ever before, I started to wonder how this album is even any good. There’s crazy people shouting in the background and loud vehicles rushing past. How is this Chill-out? Well it is, and it’s a genius, landmark piece of work.
If you’ve got this far and have no idea what I’m talking about, then go listen to the original before going any further. That’s a large point of this piece - to hold in high regard one of the best electronic albums of all time, and like all of the Portal’s features, add my own deeper story and perspective to it.
Chill Out was pioneering in approach. Completed by mad-scientists Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond, who later went on to burn a million pounds, it was arguably the first time an entire album was thought of as one meandering journey with samples at the core. Eno was doing long-form ambient, but he certainly didn’t have the sheep. It was 1990. People got high listening to this (proven after digging into the forums and Youtube comments), came-down on this, or reflected on times when they were high and subsequently reached all kinds of new dimensions. There’s a reason those sheep, Tuvan throat singers and mad radio presenters are in here - they're moments you don’t expect, whilst at the same time depicting a vivid new (or old, or imagined) world - a world that is often attributed as a road-trip across the USA. That’s the very reason why the best Ambient music (and Chill-out in its earliest forms) are so powerful. The music transports you.
You could argue this album is just as relevant today than it was back in 1990. It’s no secret that The KLF were rebelling against a society and its norms, and this album was the gift they gave to everyone else suffering at the same time. The idea of a rave society as a form of rebellion was reaching its peak, and where raves existed, often too the come-down and the chill-out room. The album is peppered with political, likely subliminal messaging and samples. It would be easy to slip into a 2019 version of this - it basically writes itself with the crazy political world of 2019, but I chose not to take that route.
The overall idea for this mix has been in my head for a few years now. I got to the point where I decided to try and capture all new field recordings and maybe one day, actually make some music to accompany them. As it turns out, that was way too ambitious. I ended up staying as close to the original album as I could with the premise of not lifting anything from it. I laid the original album down as one track in Ableton, and then started adding music and moments in parallel, eventually removing the original album completely. The tracks I chose vary from classic pieces, to slightly more obscure, and some even released within the past few months.
The end result is a similarly timed and themed reinterpretation of the overall concept, with completely new music and samples. Just two small moments in here use the same sample that ended up in the original KLF recording (as much as we can only assume), but they are used slightly differently in this version. See if you can spot them. After completing the mix, I ended up reading the Discogs listing which does a good job describing the concept of the album, a concept I had coincidentally tried to adhere to.
"Chill Out is a single continuous musical piece having many distinctive sections, each of which either segues into or introduces the next. The album as a whole is a progression, with percussion gradually introduced during the second half. "
"The album has many recurring musical elements, which unify and merge the parts into the collective whole. Common characteristics of most parts include ethereal background synthesizers, the use of echo and pitch bend, samples of nature and transport, and the punctuation of soft synthesizer loops by sudden flourishes of harmonious sound.” - Discogs
I had to stop myself getting meta with the interpretation and remind myself to zoom out every now and then and build this as an enjoyable mix. I could have - in theory - copied every single moment down to a tee with a new or similar sound, but there were some moments that I enjoyed the flow and let it continue. There were moments from the original album that, when taken out of context, you could never even start to replicate in any way. And then there were some that seemed to be reflected nicely with a new piece of music.
Is it as good as the original? No way.
Is it meant for sleeping? Give it a try.
Are there sheep? Not as you know them.
Is this sacrilege? To many of us, maybe.
But so is burning a million pounds 😉
For the best experience, I would suggest listening without looking at the track list first. If you knew what was coming in the original album, would it have been as fun?!
Tracks are listed below in (very) rough order in which they first play. Most of the time 4/5 tracks are playing at the same time. Many tracks are used multiple times at different points in the mix. Plus there are other small samples used that were changed from existence and not listed below.
Ourson - Calm Mountain Night
Bartosz Kruczyński - Pastoral Sequences
Ourson - Mountain, Bird, Boo
Chris Watson - El Divisadero
Saariselka - Ceres
Markus Guentner - Sparks
Oneohtrix Point Never - Immanence
The Chi Factory - Part One
Fedor Tau Steppe Kargiraa
Markus Guentner - Express Yourself
Bochum Welt - Canyon Drive
Ernest Hood - Gloaming
Boards of Canada - Dave (I’m a real traditionalist)
Ernest Hood - From The Bluff
Tongues of Light - Healing Side
Priori - 2see
Klimek - Milk and Honey
Akis - The Powers of Pi
Boreal Massif - Weather In August
Heavenly Music Corporation - Cloudless Light
Boreal Network - Cumulonimbus
Ex-Terrestrial - Water Walk
The KLF - Snub TV interview
Bartosz Kruczyński - V
Perishing Thirst - Boshing So High
808 State - In Yer Face (Bicep Remix)
Leo Anibaldi - Universal
Boards of Canada - Ready Let’s Go
Boreal Network - Viewers Like You
Stranger On The Shore - Acker Bilk
Boards of Canada - Apparatus
Oct 25 2019